Content Marketing vs SEO

Adam Steele
Aug 28, 2020

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Content marketing and SEO are two of the most often-discussed strategies for online marketing. They are used in combination so often that it can become difficult to separate one from the other. 

It’s important to be able to tell them apart because they don’t apply equally well in all situations. Sometimes, you may only have enough of a budget to focus on one or the other. Which approach is better when it comes to choosing between content marketing vs SEO? 

Content marketing and SEO are both important for the growth of any online business. In this guide, you’re going to learn the difference between them, when they apply, and the advantages and disadvantages of giving them the most priority in your budget.

Content Marketing vs. SEO

What is the difference between content marketing and SEO? 

Content marketing is a way to use content to create interest or trust. SEO (search engine optimization) is a way to improve the position of a page in search engine results by tweaking on-page and off-page factors. 

Quality content + SEO research

You tell us the keywords you want to target, and we’ll analyze the SERPs, research your keywords then write the content your audience (+ Google) wants to see.

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Let’s break both of these concepts down to understand them a little better.

What is content marketing?

Content marketing is a popular method of online promotion that works by creating valuable content and delivering to an audience that’s been carefully targeted. 

Rather than advertise brands directly, content marketers try to provide value to readers. These campaigns are considered successful when they strengthen the brand’s reputation or drive consumers toward a certain behavior. 

Why is content marketing important?

Content marketing is important because most online shoppers are resistant to traditional ads. They can tune out most types of intrusive advertising. With content marketing, readers are choosing to engage with the information. 

In recent years, advertisers have been wary of long forms of content. However, even massive amounts of information can be made accessible using the hub and spoke model. 

Content marketing can be done with most types of sites, selling most types of products, however not all strategies are used at the same levels. The strategies involved in content marketing for small business may differ from those used while content marketing for enterprises.


  • May provide a lot of long-term value: The content created for these campaigns can be so effective that it can get shared for years in emails, lists of top guides, and social media channels. This kind of exposure isn’t vulnerable to sudden search engine updates.
  • Supports your brand: One of the benefits of content marketing is that providing solid information is always good for your reputation. Communicating helps customers know where you stand. The communicating you do during content marketing has a lasting impact on your brand.


  • Complex planning and rollout: Content marketing campaigns are not easy to pull off. The most effective content is built knowing exactly who the audience is and why the information matters to them. If you make assumptions without doing the research and planning these campaigns require, your entire budget could be wasted.
  • Large initial investment: Content marketing can be an expensive strategy. High-quality content needs to be created and then promoted on several platforms. The cost of hiring experts to develop the strategy and handle the targeting must also be considered.

What is SEO?

Search engine optimization (SEO) refers to practices that are designed to maximize traffic from search engines. 

Search engine traffic can be maximized by:

  • Optimizing pages until they appear on the 1st page of search results
  • Claiming special features like the local search map results or search snippets
  • Getting links into other high-traffic content

At its most basic, SEO is about following each search engine’s rules to make your site more relevant and improve the experience of your visitors. However, it can get a lot more complex than that. 

SEO strategies can be developed on a massive scale to drive lasting changes in the way that certain results come up. They can also exploit blind spots in search engine design to claim a sudden advantage.


  • Scalable to almost any budget: Even a small SEO budget can result in changes over time. Most websites are not in compliance with all of Google’s best practices. Working on bringing your site into compliance for only a couple of hours a week can have results.
  • Small efforts can result in rapid improvements: If you have technical alerts to resolve or content that’s never been optimized, it’s possible that the results from your efforts could result in sudden improvements. Sometimes, unresolved problems are the only reason search engines aren’t allowing your pages to rank higher.


  • Narrow effect: Great SEO will still only affect search engine results, and not even necessarily for a long time. Even the best SEO won’t help you do much to build up your brand for the long term.
  • Subject to disruptive updates: The effectiveness of SEO is completely at the discretion of search engines. Updates can happen at any time and undo years of careful work. Those who are exploiting search engines are at the most risk. 

What’s the difference between content marketing and SEO?

The difference between content marketing and SEO is that content marketing focuses on targeting consumers with different types of content, while SEO focuses on meeting the demands of search engines.

SEO is absolutely crucial for new sites. For many sites, search engine traffic is the largest segment of traffic—eclipsing the number of people who come in from links and social media. 

Content marketing is effective for sites that have already established a worthy site and need to build trust instead of awareness.

Choose the Right Emphasis for Your Site

Content marketing and SEO can both be used to drive sales. You’ll rarely have the budget to run large campaigns for both of them, so it’s important to understand where each one shines. 

Choose SEO first when you have a site flagged with a lot of technical and content problems. If you have a site where best practices are already applied, content marketing can replace SEO as the biggest part of the promotion budget. This can lead you to lucrative new audiences.  

Hand off the toughest tasks in SEO, PPC, and content without compromising quality

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Written by Adam Steele on August 28, 2020

COO and Product Director at Loganix. Recovering SEO, now focused on the understanding how Loganix can make the work-lives of SEO and agency folks more enjoyable, and profitable. Writing from beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia.